Another city hall-cyclists battle looms over 'complete streets' plan

It’s not even done, but already it’s raising a fuss.

As cyclists and city hall battle over safety and security on London streets, and spar over the best way to build a livable city, a new strategy — a draft city hall manual on“complete streets” — is shaping up to be the next flashpoint.

The characteristics of a “complete street” vary depending on the kind of road, said city engineer Kelly Scherr, but the goal is to design areas that support pedestrians, cyclists, bus riders “in the forethought of the street (planning), rather than an afterthought.” - writes

“People-powered modes of getting around . . . should be integral from the start, versus something we try to shoehorn in later,” Scherr said.

But some Londoners have taken aim at the draft, which will be presented to politicians in the coming months, as “more of the same.” Advocates argue the draft doesn’t go far enough to encourage walking, cycling, skateboarding and other forms of “active transportation” by creating a safe environment for it.

They say the city’s current practices – including painted bike lanes instead of bike lanes separated by concrete barriers – are still dangerous and injuries and even deaths on the road shouldn’t be a surprise.

“The car is still king. That’s the No. 1 issue,” said Shelley Carr, an avid cyclist.

She wants to see the city reduce road widths to force drivers to slow down— rather than using flimsy lawn signs that urge respect for the speed limit— as part of its commitment to “Vision Zero,” a campaign is to reduce deaths on the road through better design, education and techniques like photo radar.

King Street has been a particular source of contention for cyclists since buses were moved off Dundas Street to allow for construction this summer. Riders report daily near-misses as buses, garbage trucks and delivery vehicles cross through the bike lane to reach the curb.

A transportation system that favours cars can also be frightening for pedestrians, said Jackie Schuster, who said she’s nearly hit many nights while walking her dog.

“People blow through stops signs all the time,” she said.

Schuster said people can also make connections with one another when they walk, cycle or use other slower forms of transportation.“You build community when people walk and bike and slow down,” she said, noting there are also health and environmental benefits.

Other cities use complete streets manuals to build better communities and transportation systems. The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation keeps a running list of those communities across Canada.

Executive director Nancy Smith Lea said London is on the right track with its draft, saying complete streets and Vision Zero principles can complement one another.

“The beauty of a complete streets policy is that it really tries to change the ‘business as usual’ approach we’ve been taking to building streets, which really predominantly looks at how we move cars in the quickest and most efficient way possible,” she said.

It takes time to make changes, she said – the very sentiment that so angers outspoken cyclists and pedestrians in London who are calling for changes to the way London manages its transportation system.

“It’s hard to be patient, especially when people are getting injured and killed on our streets. The complete streets policies and guidelines and the Vision Zero policy— those are really important plans and frameworks and strategies that we need to move forward,” Smith Lea said.

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